Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

December 24, 2013

Child stranded at wrong bus stop

VALDOSTA — The family of a 6-year-old boy, whom a deputy found wandering on a street, claims he was let off at the wrong school bus stop despite a warning from a sibling.

Meanwhile, city school officials claim no one ever told the driver that the child had been let off at the wrong stop.

Charles Johnson said his grandsons were riding home from the new Pinevale Elementary School on Valdosta City Schools bus 38 on Monday, Dec. 16, when the youngest child was let off at a bus stop on the corner of Bethune Street and Southwood Drive, about half a mile from his normal stop.

The bus was driven that day by a substitute, who was filling in for the regular driver, said Jennifer Steedley, VCS director of public relations.

Johnson said the child’s 7-year-old brother told the substitute driver that it was not the correct stop.

“The bus driver told my grandson to sit down and be quiet,” said Johnson.

Steedley said that the surveillance footage from the bus does not match that version of the events.

“The camera does not show an individual

 interaction between the driver and any student,” said Steedley.

The child’s brother was dropped off at his regular stop on Old Statenville Road near Scott Park and went home to tell a family member what happened.

“His aunt asked him where his brother was, and he said, ‘He’s lost,’” said Johnson.

While the family was searching, a Lowndes County sheriff’s deputy spotted the 6-year-old on Clay Road, more than half a mile away from where he was let off the bus. The deputy brought the child home sometime between 3:45-4 p.m., said Johnson.

“He was on the street for 30 to 45 minutes. The deputy found him walking north towards the bridge, and one of those big trucks could have come over the hill and killed him,” said Johnson.

The sheriff’s office confirmed to The Times that a child was picked up on Dec. 16 by a deputy but was unable to provide an incident report or more details due to being closed for holiday business hours.

The majority of students on that route usually walked to Southeast Elementary School but have been riding the bus since the opening of Pinevale Elementary on Dec. 2., said Steedley, who said the incident could have been related to the relative newness of riding the bus home and the young age of the children.

Johnson said he reported the incident to the school system’s transportation department on Dec. 17 and was told he would get a response by the next day but never received a call.

“We should have returned that phone call, and we will take care of that,” said Steedley.

Assistant Valdosta Schools Superintendent Alvin Hudson called Johnson Friday and scheduled a time that Johnson and the children’s mother can review the bus surveillance footage.

“I’m very grateful that no one was hurt,” said Johnson, “but I’m looking at the worst-case scenario and what could have happened to my grandchild.”

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